Considering the high-stakes assigned to Saturday night’s UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. Dos Santos main event, it’s no wonder the focus of most everyone’s attention has been on whether or not that fight in any way hindered the UFC’s debut on Fox. Debate and analysis will no doubt continue in that regard and over the UFC’s place in the mainstream, but it’s important we not lose sight of what brought us to this point anyway: the fights.
Aside from the top two bouts of the evening, the UFC on Fox 1 fight card may not have been the most star-studded, but it saw some significant action play out anyway, much of which is going overlooked due to the circumstances surrounding the card.
The Ultimate Fighter 12 castmate Alex Caceres finally hit his stride in the Octagon, putting on an impressive and dynamic performance against Cole Escovedo that resulted in a unanimous decision victory, his first win with the promotion. If Caceres can keep the momentum rolling in his favor, we may see the establishment of a new player at bantamweight.
Mackens Semerzier and Robert Peralta were putting on a show before accidentally clashing heads in the third round; Semerzier dropped to the canvas following the collision and Big John McCarthy called it after he ate a volley of punches while looking for the takedown, giving Peralta the victory by TKO. Semerzier is appealing the result of the fight, looking to get it overturned to a no contest (which he should have no problem doing) and seeking a rematch with Peralta.
Japanese veteran Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto was handed his second loss in as many UFC fights, dropping a unanimous decision to the unheralded Darren Uyenoyama and casting more doubt over whether he’ll return to form and establish himself as a contender in the UFC. Cub Swanson also turned in disappointing results in what his UFC debut, succumbing to a second round submission to UFC two-timer Ricardo Lamas.
Rising featherweight Dustin Poirier continued his run of success in the Octagon, picking up his third UFC win (his first that ended in a finish) by choking out Pablo Garza with a d’arce in the second round. At just 22, Poirier has the makings of a future contender in the featherweight division.
In the night’s co-main event, Benson Henderson firmly established himself as the number one contender at lightweight by edging out a very game Clay Guida in another instant classic. The two battled it out for an intense three rounds, rightly earning Fight of the Night; though both men saw moments of success, Henderson proved himself the better competitor overall on Saturday night, holding a slight edge over The Carpenter in just about every area. Now, we get to look forward to what should be a barnburner of a lightweight title fight between Henderson and champ Frankie Edgar this February in Japan.
At the top of the night, 27-year-old Junior dos Santos brought the belt back to Brazil by doing what he does best: throwing hands. Dos Santos plastered Cain Velasquez with an overhand right that sent him to the mat early in the first round and finished things shortly after with a violent series of punches on the ground. The one minute-four second stoppage wasn’t what the UFC was hoping for in their Fox debut, as a longer fight would give new fans and media something more to latch on to, but I doubt dos Santos is making any complaints about how the night turned out on his end. He earned the UFC heavyweight title without barely breaking a sweat, becoming the first man to claim a win over Cain Velasquez. Who knows how long his reign at the top will last, as heavyweight has proven to be perhaps the most volatile division in the sport, but what’s for sure is that the title couldn’t currently be in more deserving hands.
The bottom line is that Saturday played host to some meaningful, exciting fights, whether the mainstream noticed or not. To paraphrase Joe Rogan, MMA’s growth can’t be stopped, and certainly not by one quick, but exciting, title fight. MMA will get there. In the meantime, let’s take care not to focus more on the destination than the journey itself.